Playing for the Pontiff

Bayonne native leads musical celebrations in Philadelphia for Pope’s visit

When the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics visits the City of Brotherly Love on Sept. 26 and 27, a Bayonne native will be leading two of the musical celebrations held in the Pontiff’s honor.
Bayonne born and raised David Kimock, 43, is the liturgical music director for the World Meeting of Families conference that will take place in Philadelphia at the end of this month, just prior to Pope Francis’s arrival.
Kimock will then also be directing the choir for the Masses that Pope Francis will celebrate at the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul on Saturday, Sept. 26 and the Mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on Sept. 27.
That’s a pretty high honor for a guy who began his musical training in the Horace Mann School band and who continued his musical pursuits at Bayonne High School, where he participated in the marching, concert, and jazz bands and drama club.
He was also cantor (song leader) at his home parish of St. John’s Byzantine Catholic Church on 26th Street and took guitar lessons at Piero’s Music on Broadway during his high school years.
“The foundations of my life were built on the Peninsula,” he said.
But for now his attentions are clearly focused on preparing for the Pope’s visit to Philadelphia.
The excitement started when Kimock received a call in mid-May from Rev. Dennis Gill, director of the Office for Divine Worship for the Philadelphia Archdiocese.
“They said we would like for you to plan and coordinate and conduct the choir for the World Meeting of Families papal Masses, and then at that moment I basically stopped breathing,” he said. “You’re honored to be asked, and then realize all the responsibility there is in preparing such a historical event.”
Gill was familiar with Kimock’s work at St. Andrew Catholic Church in Newtown, Pa. and the strong musical program they have there.

Making history

A lot of details have to be worked out and a lot of pieces have to come together for Kimock’s events to be successful.
The World Meeting of Families takes place Sept. 22 to 25, just prior to Pope Francis’s arrival. The conference focuses on the role of Catholic families in society and how to strengthen them.
“A lot of music has to be prepared for the several Masses that will take place during the three days of the conference,” Kimock said. “Each day they begin with a celebration of the Mass.”
His assignment for the big, Sept. 27 Mass for the Pope included early work with a core group of 250 people in the papal choir. But his challenge became greater when he added several ethnic choirs to the mix, as well as an all-Catholic high school chorus consisting of students from all over the Philadelphia Archdiocese and the archdiocese’s children’s choir.
The group has swelled to 500, and Kimock is the guiding light for all of them.
He also has to coordinate with the Philadelphia Orchestra, which will be playing at the Mass outside on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Kimock’s core group has been rehearsing constantly since July 27, shifting to the Cathedral Basilica in Philadelphia, with the next rehearsal scheduled for Sunday.

Highlight of career

Kimock said the hard work and nervousness are mitigated by the confidence that has been placed in him by the church hierarchy.
“It’s huge. It’s a tremendous honor,” he said. “This is absolutely the highlight of my career as a musician.”
His previous highest honor was when he was invited by the Vatican two years ago to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Cappella Giulia, the choir responsible for singing all the liturgical music in the Vatican Basilica.
Kimock was born in Bayonne Hospital and lived in the city from 1971 until 1997. He left when he married, moving to Yardley, Pa., where he still lives. He has two children. He is the music director and choral conductor at St. Andrew Catholic Church in Newtown, Pa.


“It’s huge. It’s a tremendous honor. This is absolutely the highlight of my career as a musician.” – David Kimock

Musical background

Kimock is a classically trained baritone and plays the guitar, trumpet, French horn, piano, and organ.
He attended Jersey City State College as a music major, and then transferred to the Westminster Choir College in Princeton, where he received his bachelor degree in sacred music in 1995. He then studied at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, where he received a master’s degree in choral conducting.
Kimock is the son of John and Evelyn Kimock of Bayonne.
He returns to Bayonne from time to time to visit his family.

Joseph Passantino may be reached at

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